As a relatively new player myself, having discovered the game through Steam, I generally agree with a lot of these suggestions. I did quite a bit of due diligence before I even tried the game, having spent a few hours reading about the game, checking out the handbook, etc. When I finally decided to hit “Play Now” for the very first time, I already knew which package I wanted, which planet I’d put it on, and even what my company and symbol would be. But even after I had done all of that research, walking through the actual setup was not at all intuitive and I was afraid I was making mistakes until I made it through it all. It doesn’t help that the actual process has been updated since the handbook guides were published. All of the content is still there, but the sequence has changed and there is very little reassurance from the process that mistakes aren’t being made.
And while I think the game definitely caters to folks like me who do the research and put in the out-of-game time to get the most out of in-game time, I think expecting anything of the sort from a broader audience is problematic. Most of the Steam feedback from folks who didn’t come from the browser version are from people with <1hr of playtime who just clicked “Play” and found a non-intuitive spreadsheet that required external research and checked out.
Related: I think it would do a lot of good to change the name of the new-player license from “TRIAL” to just about anything else. Honestly, “BASIC” should be the name of the starter license, and the post-subscriber license should be called something like “STANDARD”. The connotation of “TRIAL” is that you’re getting temporary benefits that will expire, and I think it drives a lot of the negative feedback about the paywall. Anyone who actually dives into the game realizes that the PRO sub is easy to live without for a good while (or even indefinitely, depending on your preferences). But many players never get there, because they encounter a game that requires some acclimation under a license called “TRIAL”, read other negative feedback about paywalls, and then quit.
Anyway, just providing a little anecdotal feedback. I made it through the onboarding process and really enjoy the game (I’ve even purchased a support tier and am very excited about the ongoing development of the game). But it wasn’t intuitive even after having done a lot of due diligence research beforehand, and MOST new players will not do that.
I really like the look of the quick UI that the OP hacked together, and I really like the idea of linking the planet selection and package selection so that it is much clearer to new users that their initial choices are not setting them up for a much harder life (or learning about COLIQ in their first week).
That said, I do like the initial starter packages. While it may not be economically viable in the mid-term for a Victualler to devote energy to water extraction, farmsteading, and food processing and should rather specialize, the initial starter package that suggests all three buildings really does make the actual job of space farming more intuitive as a player gets their bearings, and it takes time to figure out what you might want to do as a specialization.
So, a more intuitive onboarding UI with the existing package options seems like a great starting point.